Use Collaborative Learning Communities To Improve Your Students' Learning
written by: Kellie Hayden
• edited by: Wendy Finn
• updated: 9/11/2012
Have you ever had a group project fail? Collaborative learning communities need to be developed in a classroom with practice and time. The time will be well spent because students will learn by making their own meaning and by problem solving with others.
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Developing Collaborative Learning Communities
Collaborative learning communities can help students to learn. Communication between the teacher and group members is key as well as time management.
Collaborative learning basics mean that students work together to learn. In life, people must work together to complete tasks. Group dynamics and personalities can derail any task or project. Students need to learn to work together productively.
In addition, students need to actively learn, not be "spoon fed." However, developing great collaborative communities in which students take on the responsibility of learning takes time and practice.
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Collaborative Learning Activities
Collaborative learning activities can be very open ended or very structured. For teachers trying a collaborative learning project for the first time or for teachers trying one after a failed attempt, they should complete a very structured activity. Most elementary and middle school students need structure. If a teacher has completed several collaborative learning activities, then the students know the flow of a project and may not need as much structure.
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Structured Collaborative Task
All collaborative learning activities should be connected to state standards. For this example activity, the Ohio English Language Arts indicator covered is from the Literary Text Standard for the eighth grade. Most states have a similar learning goal or indicator: Identify and explain various types of characters (e.g., flat, round, dynamic, static) and how their interactions and conflicts affect the plot.
Group Task: Students will choose one flat, round, dynamic and static character from the novel that the class just read or from a literature circle novel. After they choose the characters, they will make cut-outs to represent each character. They will need to write why each character is the type it is and to explain how the character's interactions affect the plot.
Steps for Character Type Cut-outs Collaborative Activity
Step 1: Put students into small groups, four students per group.
Step 2: Students need to choose a job title or individual role:
Group Leader: keep group on task, help resolve group conflict, and lead presentation
Artistic Leader: leader of the character cut-outs and artwork
Flat and Round Character Leader: leader of fact finding for these two cut-outs
Static and Dynamic Character Leader: leader of fact finding for these two cut-outs
Step 3: The teacher needs to explain the task to the students. Students should know that they will be assessed as individuals and as a group. They will be assessed individually on role as a specific leader. As a group, they will be assessed on teamwork, content, creativity, neatness, and presentation skills. Teachers can create a rubric and hand it out at this point of the lesson.
Step 4: Students need time to work together to complete the cut-outs. The exact design, shape and size should be left up to the students and their creativity. However, if there is a small wall space to hang the character cut-outs, then the teacher should let the students know.
Step 5: After the cut-outs are complete, the students need to work together to decide how they want to present the cut-outs to the class. They will need time to practice the presentation.
Step 6: Small groups will present their character cut-outs. They need to remember to include the author and title of the book in their presentation.
This is just one collaborative activity where students can learn core concepts while working in a group. Most students enjoy the projects and they can showcase their artistic abilities.